TYRONE 1-17, DOWN 4-8
Not alone was this a dramatic contest that featured a 9-point Down advantage, an irresistible Tyrone comeback, as well as five goals, it was packed with so much quality play that it made up for much of the pulling, dragging and feuding that has characterized the Ulster game. A draw left both teams with much to reflect on before Sunday’s replay at the same venue.
Down know they should have closed the deal after scoring four goals, but Greg McCartan’s controversial sending off at the end of the first half and some inexperience in the final quarter ultimately deprived them of a shock result. As for Tyrone, manager Mickey Harte put it succinctly enough when he said he was far from happy that his players had conceded 4-8. Fragile at the back, and on occasions breathtaking going forward, Harte’s side were the proverbial curate’s egg.
Still, it was an occasion to remember for the 31,600 spectators who soaked up the sunshine and the swaying football. If the first half was relatively prosaic, it gave more than enough hints as to why Tyrone were strong favorites going into the match. Down battled away, but when Eoin Mulligan and Peter Canavan, who finished with 1-6, cut their way through the opposition defense, it seemed there could be only one outcome.
Down’s goalkeeper, Michael McVeigh, was forced to make two excellent saves, from Mulligan and Cormac McAnallen, as Tyrone increased the pressure, and with McCartan struggling to impose himself in midfield, Down were fortunate to be trailing by just 3 points after 20 minutes.
However, Tyrone’s dominance was shaken coming up to the break when Brendan Coulter set off on a spectacular solo run that he finished with a crisp shot for Down’s fist goal to make it 1-7 to 0-8. But just when Down had changed the course of the game, referee Aidan Mangan sent McCartan off for throwing the ball at Brian McGuigan, a decision that, predictably, didn’t please Down manager Paddy O’Rourke. “I thought it was a very harsh decision,” O’Rourke said. “Obviously, he shouldn’t have thrown the ball back, but he didn’t mean to hit him in the face. It was stupid thing to do, but it was a jump ball situation . . . very, very harsh.”
So, advantage Tyrone once again — not a bit of it. Despite being reduced to 14 men, Down stormed forward to score two goals in quick succession. Liam Walsh finished the first following a sublime buildup that featured Coulter and Michael Walsh, and then full forward Dan Gordon fisted a dropping ball to the net. Coulter added another point, and suddenly Down were 9 clear.
Looking like they were on the way out, Tyrone responded with a fightback that was every bit as dramatic as Down’s scoring spree. First, Canavan calmly hit the target with a penalty after he had been fouled, and then for the following 22 minutes, Down were kept scoreless as Tyrone cut into their lead. With the points piling up, the teams were level with 10 minutes remaining, when, sensationally, Down pulled away again with Gordon’s second goal.
Yet, Tyrone showed they had the composure to come back for a second time and with the match level one more time, both Kevin Hughes and Ryan McMenamin had opportunities to finish the job in the closing seconds, but their shots drifted wide.
“The character that was shown was more important than victory,” Harte said. “I’m not suddenly saying we’ve come of age, but we’re getting to grow old slowly. Brian McGuigan came out and showed his colors, and there was leadership all over the field. I don’t think you could fault any of the Tyrone players out there.”
Tyrone appear to have the upper hand going into the replay, with the losers to face Donegal in the qualifiers, but after this rollercoaster of a game, predictions will have to wait for the moment.
KERRY 1-11, LIMERICK 0-9
Could have, should have been the showpiece of the football weekend, but instead this Munster final turned out to be a non-event. Killarney was bathed in sunshine, Limerick were quietly confident of a shock result, but the anticipation never matched the reality of a dull game in which Kerry were happy to do just enough to book their place in the All Ireland quarterfinals.
Limerick’s optimism had been built on shifting sand. They were by far the more dominant of the two teams in the opening 20 minutes, yet they had nothing to show for their efforts. Precious few scores, a missed penalty and, as manager Liam Kerins would reflect, a missed opportunity.
“I think the game was lost in those opening 20 minutes,” Kerins said. “We were all over them, but with a team like Kerry, you have to put them away. It just didn’t go for us.”
Having edged their way into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead by the 15th minute, Limerick wouldn’t raise a flag for another half hour, but Kerry, by contrast, rattled up 1-5 in no time at all coming up to the break. It wasn’t vintage stuff, but with Darragh O Se left on the bench in reserve, there was still no need to risk the midfielder’s injury.
“I’d say a little bit of experience didn’t do us any harm,” said manager Paidi O Se. “We’ve been around the block a few times and when things were difficult we were able to weather the storm. When things didn’t go Limerick’s way, I felt they didn’t have the same resilience. I’m happy because we’ve won a Munster final, and it’s the first I’ve won as a manager on Kerry ground, all the other five have been won outside of Kerry, so it’s special to have a victory in Killarney.”
With John Galvin dominating the middle of the pitch, and with Stephen Kelly’s lightning pace troubling Kerry, there were chances galore for Limerick in the opening quarter. Kelly burst through only to send the ball wide, and then when a long pass from Damien Reidy found Jason Stokes, he was fouled, but Michael Reidy’s penalty attempt was well saved by Declan O’Keeffe.
A clash of heads between the dangerous Kelly and Eoin Brosnan proved to be crucial as Kelly struggled from that moment on before being substituted, while Brosnan showed no ill effects apart from a swathe of bandaging around his head. In fact, it was Brosnan’s solo that set up Dara O Cinneide for Kerry’s goal and then Liam Hassett struck for a couple of points to leave the winners ahead by 1-6 to 0-3 at the break.
Limerick’s failure to translate their superiority into scores wasn’t lost on Kerins.
“We just weren’t good enough,” he said. “I we were good enough, we would’ve taken those chances and that’s the reality.”
They were then unable to take advantage when Seamus Scanlon was sent off early in the second half for a second bookable offense. Kerry stuck to a policy of containment and the gap could have been closer if Muiris Gavin’s penalty attempt hadn’t bounced back off the crossbar with with five minutes remaining.
TIPPERARY 1-18, GALWAY 1-17
Tipperary survive in this summer’s hurling championship, but Galway are out, gone, finished. A 1-point margin may seem a cruel defeat in last Sunday’s third-round qualifier at Pearse Stadium in Salthill, but truth be told, Galway were extremely lucky to have come so close thanks to a 1-3 scoring burst in injury time.
Tipp were almost caught at the line, but it would’ve been a travesty. They were the dominant force, making up to a degree for their demise at the hands and hurls of Clare. Even with Eoin Kelly below par, there were important contributions from Lar Corbett, Paul Curran, Tommy Dunne and Eamonn Corcoran, while John Carroll came off the bench to alter the course of the second half with a bustling performance.
As for Galway, the way they disappeared off the radar for much of the second half was inexplicable. Only Ollie Canning who shackled Kelly superbly was deserving of any credit as the home team faded badly. Despite the frustration of defeat, manager Conor Hayes was making positive noises about the future.
“We drew a tough team, and even though we’re disappointed, hopefully we’ll learn from this,” Hayes said. “We panicked when they got their goal and instead of picking off points, we went for goals.”
With Rory Gantley, Kevin Broderick and Damien Hayes to the fore, Galway had much the better of the opening exchanges and there was little sign of their later demise. Tipp closed the gap to trail by a point — 0-10 to 0-11 — at the changeover, but Galway were still looking promising. Carroll’s introduction made the difference, however, and when he put Benny Dunne through for a goal, Tipp quickly moved up a gear.
Carroll and then Brian O’Meara soon added points and the gap was out to 5.
“The important thing is that we survived it,” said manager Michael Doyle. “This was a very big game for us but we made it through. John Carroll is a fine player and it’s great to have someone like that to come off the bench.”
A late Hayes goal, and a flurry of points had Tipp supporters chewing their nails, but Galway had left it too late.